3 September 2008 LOIRP Status

Dennis Wingo: Progress has been good since the last report. We have obtained audio from tapes from all of the ground stations, from Woomera, Goldstone, Madrid, as well as from NASA Langely where some of the tapes were re-recorded, which brings up and issue to discuss in a minute. What we have proven in playing audio and video data from these random tapes is that we can conclusively state that one of the two questions that were paramount at the beginning of the project (are the tapes any good), can be conclusively answered affirmative. Audio clips will be put on the net with a link. I think that they will fit in this email without overcoming anyone’s mail box. You already have the Woomera tape.
— This audio excerpt is from a tape being recorded at Goldstone wherein the tech talks about “seeing some sky” i.e. deep space above the moon’s horizon http://images.spaceref.com/news/2008/goldstone-g3-58lo3.mp3
— This audio excerpt from a data tape has features a technican with a spanish accent recording identifiying information on a tape being downlinked in Madrid. http://images.spaceref.com/news/2008/loirptest08madrid.mp3
We continue to find small problems with the drive. Most of them now is because the pins on the back of one of the connectors has many broken coax wires and it is taking a while to track down but we almost have a fully locked up video signal that we have recorded on a new test tape that Ken brought in. We are still looking for information and this past week we received many aperture cards, some of them with procedures on them that we are applying to align the electronics and mechanics of the drive.
Also, since we know that we are going to have the money soon for the head refurbishment, I have delayed some expenditures to expedite the head refurbishment. We have sent a large check and two heads (they have three heads now) to VMI to get them started with the refurbishment process and they are getting started.
We expect to receive by the end of the week, refurbished pinch rollers that are critical to the tape moving at the proper speed through the tape transport system. This week we sent a sample of the belts for the motors to a company in New Jersey and they are going to be able to make brand new belts for the reel motors and the capstan drive motors. It will take them about 6 weeks to provide us with new belts but the cost is fairly modest, about $1k for all the belts that we need, made from scratch, along with plenty of spare belts. That is the good news. However, not all news in this area is good.
A couple of weeks ago we sent the capstan motors and the reel motors from the two parts donor drives to get the bearings replaced. We have received their estimate of the costs. It is going to cost about $30k to get the primary and secondary drive motors completely refurbished. Ouch. This is not completely unexpected as the bearings are not the typical ones you buy at Auto Zone for a V-8 engine. They are bearing with the highest quality classifications in the books. They require being dunked in liquid nitrogen to remove or install, a rubber mallet just won’t do. So, we are holding off in this area for now though we will pay the $3k needed just to order the bearings that we need so that if we go forward to full production, we won’t loose any schedule there.
We are growing very concerned now on the schedule for the demodulator and are monitoring the progress there. We are also looking at our alternative for software demodulation or other hardware solutions. We are still investigating whether or not the demodulator on the drive is one that we can use. Still not sure and are still investigating. It will take us fixing a couple of final problems with the electronics before we know for sure.
One thing that we found this past week is a tape from Langley that is of the famous shot of the Earth from the Moon. This tape looks like it may have been demodulated prior to writing back out to the tape. We are writing the software now in Labview to record this data and put it back together and see if it is that image. If it is, and if the tape is demodulated already, we will know for sure whether or not the tape drive is fully functional for an entire hour of playback, which is different than a few minutes of audio. If we can do this, then we will have met our next major milestone of proving that the drive can be refurbished to the point of reliably playing a tape back.
The demodulator is external to the drive (assuming for a second that the on board demodulator is not the right one) and so we will be able to show that the drive is fully operational. The system, which is the tapes, the drive, the demodulator, the software, and the computer is in progress and we will at least put to bed the continuing issue of exactly what the bandwidth of the original signal from the spacecraft was.
We are also trying to contact Lee Scherer, who was the Lunar Orbiter program manager for NASA and the former center director of Dryden and KSC. We are trying to track down some Boeing people who were working on the ground support equipment at that time to ask some questions.
Audio and pictures attached.